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Vietnam - 1956 to 1961

American Assistance to the South Vietnamese Government


In 1956, the first American military advisers arrived in South Vietnam to train the South Vietnamese Army.

The Diem government faced increasing protests from the Buddhist majority, intellectuals, student groups and the communists.


In 1957, Diem with the assistance of the CIA, began to crack down on the protests against his government.


During this period, the Vietnamese Communists believed that the Diem government would fall and the South become communist through political pressure. However, in 1958, the first Communist guerilla attack on a plantation the South took place.


In a further crackdown on his opposition, Diem passed a series of laws which made it legal to imprison anyone without trial on suspicion of being a communist. With CIA assistance, thousands were arrested. The Communist Party responded by approving the use of violence to overthrow the Diem government.

Troop levels:  
South Vietnamese 243,000
American 760


In 1960, after a military coup against Diem failed, a National Liberation Front was formed. This was supposed to be a union of all those who were opposed to the Diem regime but the South Vietnamese and American governments claimed that it was controlled by the communists from Hanoi.

Troop levels:  
South Vietnamese 243,000
American 900


In 1961, the NLF carried out a series of attacks and captured the provincial capital of Phuoc Vinh.

The newly elected President Kennedy agreed to further US military assistance to South Vietnam but stopped short of committing combat troops. 

Troop levels:  
South Vietnamese 243,000
American 3,205